Hope for the Hard Days

No one is immune to trouble.

Job 5:7 but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.

For some reason, we tend to walk around in Christian circles believing that no one else struggles with the same challenges we have. Or that no one is dealing with sin like we do. We bury our real and true selves under a façade of fake smiles and trite expressions when in reality the moment we share that we really have had a bad day, or week and the other person smiles in relief with a “me too!”

If we are to bear each other’s burdens, there is a sacrifice that must be made. And make no mistake we are to do just this, but sometimes we underestimate the weight of that burden.

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

I don’t know about you but when I read the headlines of the latest news broadcast and check in on Facebook to see the latest child abduction post, political rhetoric from all sides, and just the debauchery that exists in our world, I find my mind goes to a very negative place. Add in the prayer requests and needs of those who have lost loved ones, who are fighting the vicious monster cancer, and yet others who bear unbelievable heartache and heartbreak, it’s easy to believe that life is just too much.

In these times I am reminded that while I am told to bear each other’s burden, I am not doing any of this alone. As a matter of fact, the One who has given me my purpose and job to do here on this earth has already told me His yoke is easy and his burden is light!

Matthew 11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

How can this be, when there is so much to be weighed down with that is just what’s outside of me? When I add the weight of the sin I struggle against, the unexpected bad news I hear, or the prayers I pray for my own family – I must immediately turn to the One who knows, sees and hears all.  Laying my burdens and cares at His feet is the ONLY way that I can move forward in this life and help care for others in the way that they need from me. Just a few verses before He tells us His yoke is easy, He tells us in vs. 28

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

The enemy is crafty –he seeks to steal our joy in a multitude of ways, including the words that others say or don’t say, the pressure he applies to those walking outside God’s protection, and the rampant sin at work in our world. All of this combine to bear much weight on the Christian and even more so the Christian in ministry – because we feel those things so keenly. My heart literally hurts physically when I know that others who I care about, or who entrust me with their cares and woes need my support and prayer. Speaking and ministering at conferences can weigh me down quite literally where I need to rest for several days after. Writing and laboring over words that others need to hear can be physically exhausting because of the spiritual battle that is also taking place. Physical rest becomes necessary because of the mental, emotional and spiritual battles taking place.

This is why I sympathize for those in any position of Christian ministry and for their families. The weight they bear is heavier than we can know. The weight of their knowledge can be unfathomable.  The hits in ministry continue without an end in sight.

If you’re not in ministry, you still know the weight. As women we bear these burdens as well. Burdens for our family, our friends, and our church.  The Christian life MUST be lived in our consistent walk in the Word. The consistent practice of filling our minds with the words of Christ, then combined with the act of submission in prayer leaving the burdens we bear at the feet of the only One able to carry them for us.  If we avoid this, or underestimate its importance, we run the risk that our minds will be filled with the difficult news, the negative attitudes and the disappointing and sorrow filled headlines that scream for our attention. And the truth is what we fill our minds with becomes what we live out in our lives.

This morning I read in Hebrews 12 and I continued thinking through this further. This is part of the race we run.  See vs. 1,2

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

And then further vs. 12-14

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

All of this rests squarely on our understanding that He is the source. The Holy Spirit power that resides in each of us at salvation.

Our hope truly rests in Him today. Without Him we can do nothing, and as much as we think we can carry our burdens on our own, we will fail miserably.

John 15:5  I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

If we can’t bear our own burdens in our own strength how can we even begin to think that we can bear the burdens of others as we are commanded in Scripture?

Obedience follows obedience and our comfort and peace are in Him alone. While we cannot live in a vacuum and avoid the bad news or negative spirits around us, we can and must prioritize the place of His Word and prayer and meditation in our lives above the other noise.

Face Your Goliath

by Angela Jamison

Last week in my Women’s Small Group we discussed the Bible story of David and Goliath. We pondered on how brave David was to stand up to Goliath after soldiers twice his size ran in fear and how much faith he held to do so scantily armed and with little doubt. Even when Saul attempted to talk him out of it or Goliath himself laughed in his face, David stood strong in the belief and knowledge that God had saved him from adversity before and He would do it again.

David stood up to Goliath.

After a brief discussion, I proposed a question …

What Goliath in your life do you need to stand up to? 

 We all have one, a giant in our life that we spend more time and energy on avoiding than simply facing. These are the moments when the Bible, and it’s truths, come alive for me.  The moments when I can insert myself into the story, see and feel, the depth of it’s meaning.

David and Goliath could be a fairy a tale. A fairy tale of the underdog winning against the big bully, taking him down with one well placed stone. It could be.

But it’s not. 

David and Goliath is a story of faith, a story of the necessity of believing in God’s mercies and arming ourselves, every day, with his power and love. David didn’t win because he had a large stone, was a top-notch pitcher or kung-fu master. David won because he believed he could and he trusted in the One who had protected him always.

David won because he had God.

The best part of this story? We can win, too! Just as David did, we too can face our Goliath and take him down because we have the strength and the power and the love of the most strong Almighty Father.

 It’s so easy to be like the hundreds of other soldiers running from Goliath in fear. It takes faith to stand up and be like David. So again, I ask …

What Goliath in your life do you need to stand up to?

 Sometimes our Goliath is an outside force, another person or situation, but often times, our Goliath lives within ourselves. Sometimes, our Goliath is the doubt, the fear, the self-deprecating talk we allow to manifest in our hearts and minds. We are our own worst enemy, our own Goliath.

David won because he had God and we can win too. Wrap yourself in the blanket of truth of God’s word, knowing and believing He will deliver you from whatever giant you are facing, inwardly or outwardly. With Him, you are capable and through Him you are strengthened.

Stock your arsenal with these Bible verses to help you stand up to your Goliath…

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. -Philippians 4:13

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. -Isaiah 41:10

You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.  -Psalm 119:114

The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all – Psalm 34:19

headshotAngela Jamison is a mother of four and works with young children as the Director of a Christian Preschool. She derives joy from children and is passionate about connecting with mothers to encourage and reiterate God’s design for the toughest job on Earth. 

 After struggling with infertility, Angela and her husband entered the world of foster care and began the journey to create their family on God’s terms.

When she is not entertaining children, or buying LulaRoe, Angela loves to read, write and explore the path being laid before her by the most perfect parent, our Heavenly Father.

Read more of Angela’s writing and journey at www.angelajamison.com

When “no” is best…

I don’t know anyone that likes to be told “no.” Doesn’t matter if they are two and want a cookie instead of a nap, or forty-five and desiring a book deal. Hearing no as the answer hurts sometimes.  It’s also practically impossible for some of us to say!  I have the hardest time telling people no to almost any request. It’s challenging to find the right balance. Sometimes I just know deep down that I have to say no but I can’t explain it to people, and sometimes it makes no sense to anyone else. So for a very long time I was a “yes girl.

“Vicki, we need someone to bake muffins for visitation.

Sure, I can do that. “

Nevermind that the kiddos need my attention in the afternoons when I’m baking,

and I’m working from home full-time.

“Vicki, we need a meal for someone who just had a baby.

Sure, I can do that.”

Nevermind that I won’t be home all week because the kids have practices

and I’m teaching in between.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. I have struggled with saying no to extra responsibilities for YEARS.  I like being a yes girl and I like being patted on the back or thanked for being so helpful. Pitiful.  Drive myself into the ground and become #1 grump to my own family, just for this.

Over the last few years, the Lord has been working in my own heart to learn to be honest in my abilities and capabilities instead of just relying on my default yes.  See I know the Bible teaches the principle of “counting the cost.”  Check out these passages – Luke 14:28-30, Ecc. 2:11, and Prov. 11:1.

Sometimes it’s not the monetary cost, it may be time, or having to say no to other things later, because you committed to this. Sometimes it’s rest, time in the Bible, you name it – the cost of saying YES is high and before we say it we should consider if we are willing to make that commitment for ourselves and sometimes for our families also!

Recently, I reflected on this year and thanked the Lord for the work He had been doing in me to start learning to say No.  Now, by no means have I perfected this … I still struggle, but I’m working on it.  I’m working on being honest with people about my limitations, because honestly that’s something I don’t want anyone to think I have. Now that’s just sinful pride right? we all have limitations, why do I feel that I should hide that? No idea my friends, but it’s almost hardwired into me. So I’m a work in progress.

But this work in progress said no earlier this year. About six months ago I said no to a wonderful opportunity and something that took me a couple of days to respond back to because I was trying to justify, work out an angle, anything to be able to say yes and feel right about it. But the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let me. I knew deep down in my core I shouldn’t accept the offer, and eventually told them no.

I was disappointed because it would have been wonderful. Something that would have been work, but would have been enjoyable and I would have loved it.

What I didn’t know is what God knew.  In His omniscience, He knew that in June I would be working on a new book that I hadn’t even proposed yet.  He knew that I would be on a short deadline, and I would have either had to say no to the book deal, or I would have been a literal crazy person trying to accomplish both BIG things not to mention doing life with my family.

I’m so grateful that I listened this time and trusted there was a reason I needed to say No. I really cannot imagine if I had said yes.  There would be regret. There would be a huge emotional toll. The cost would have been far greater than I thought at that time. God in His provision spared me the pain. My friend Dawn Owens recently released a new book Like Me or Not dealing with an approval addiction.  She drills down into how this looks and manifests itself, and then shows how wrong it is by using Scripture to reveal the dangers in this behavior.  The thing is she does it in a very real way.  She lays out her life, her experiences, and her pain in the process of detailing how this has affected her life.  If you struggle with your no’s, you will benefit from reading her story and her challenges to let God deal with your heart.  You can purchase it at a variety of book stores or click the link to get it on Amazon.

Do you struggle with saying No? Do you like to be a yes girl like me, always volunteering and saying yes, even when you know deep down you should say no?  There’s tremendous freedom in learning to trust the Lord and lean on His wisdom.

I pray that you are encouraged today to take responsibility for the “yes” and “no” answers you face today.

 

 

Psalm 37:4 Delight before Desire

by Rachel Schmoyer

I felt restless. Unsettled. This feeling was illogical. Nothing on the surface of my day to day life had changed. I was still cooking, cleaning, teaching Sunday School, directing Vacation Bible School, reading voraciously—all the things I’ve always loved and longed to do. However, I noticed I didn’t have a driving passion for them anymore.

At first, I thought my restlessness was because God wanted to move our family to Africa, but nope. After my husband returned from a missions trip to Tanzania, he didn’t say “pack up we are moving.” Instead, he said, “I am more convinced we are exactly where we are supposed to be.” For him, that meant a renewed passion for ministry. For me, that meant I was stuck.

I was stumped. What was missing? Was their something else I was supposed to be doing? Why didn’t I feel like doing all the things I had always wanted to do? Since I wasn’t able to figure this out on my own, I asked my older and wiser friend. After listening carefully, she shared Psalm 37:4.

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

I was surprised she choose this verse. Normally, this is a go-to verse for those who want something and need to know if God wants them to have it.

Something like this:

I want a new car.

Does God want me to have a new car? I don’t know. How can I find out?

I’ll delight myself in the Lord to check to see if God wants me to have a new car, too.  

The problem is, this litmus test approach to the verse is backwards. It puts the desire first and follows it up with delight. However, in the verse, the delight comes first before the desire.

My job was not to focus on myself and my desires. My job was to delight myself in the Lord.

Psalm 46:10 puts it a different way.

“Cease striving and know that I am God.”

The answer to the restless feeling in my soul was not to frantically search for a desire. That would be striving, trying to fix my life in my own strength. The solution to my unsettledness was to delight myself in the Lord. These verses were like a sigh of relief after holding my breath for too long. I began to replace my restlessness with a season of freedom to delight in the Lord.

What does it look like to delight yourself in the Lord?

  • Read. Spend time in God’s word, delighting in His promises and His plan.
  • Pray. Not just a list of requests, but praise, delighting in who God is.
  • Rejoice. Delight in what the Lord has done for His people in the past. Not just the long past, but the recent past, too.

The result of my season of delighting was that God gave me a desire to write. Writing had not been on my radar—ever. This passion could only have come from delighting in Him. My challenge now is to keep delighting in Him so that every one of my writing goals is a desire from Him.

You might be in a season of unsettled. You may have a life transition coming up and you don’t know what your role will be in that transition. Maybe you don’t know what you want to be when you “grow up.”

Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.


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Rachel Schmoyer is a pastor’s wife and a mom of four in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. She writes at Read the Hard Parts (https://readthehardparts.com/) to encourage and equip Christians to find simple truths in complex Bible passages. Her devotionals have been published in Light from the Word, The Secret Place, and The Quiet Hour. You can connect with her on Facebook @ReadtheHardParts, Twitter @schmoyer_rachel, and Instagram @schmoyer_rachel.

Your Happy Place

by Angela Jamison

I was chatting with a dear friend this morning, griping about the number on the scale. We both tend to ride the up and down weight coaster and both are easily frustrated with the back and forth in progress. It’s not an uncommon conversation among friends and it will be a constant, life-long battle.

 I’ve often said if I could choose a super power, I would choose to be able to eat whatever I want and stay a healthy weight. Obviously unrealistic, but we can all dream, yes?

 In my conversation this morning, however, my friend said something that had me thinking. She said, “I just want to find my happy weight place”.

 I’ll adjust her phrase minimally to say – I just want to find my happy place.

 I just want to find my happy place.

 How often do we search for this? How often do each of us desire this magical, everything is how we want it, place? I know I’ve dreamed of ‘my happy place’, what it would look like and how I would feel in this imaginative state of perfection.

 I’ve dreamed of the greener grass on the other side while simultaneously destroying that which I’m tromping over. Dreaming of your happy place, opposed to relishing in your current one, can be more damaging than encouraging.

 We can find our happy place in our everyday.

 We can find our happy place in our everyday by giving our everyday to God, by focusing on His promises and provisions. We don’t have to dream of that imaginative state of perfection if we simply embrace the reality of God’s presence today.

 Is your happy place free of a current struggle?

Find it today with this truth…

 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10

 Is your happy place free of financial stress?

Find it today with this truth…

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. -Matthew 6: 25-34

Is your happy place free of grief?

Find it today with this truth…

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. – Matthew 5:4

 Having dreams and aspirations are great qualities, but God is found in more than just those dreams. He is found in this very moment. Find God in your current day and He’ll guide you to your happy place, your in-this-moment state of perfection.


 

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Angela Jamison is a mother of four and works with young children as the Director of a Christian Preschool. She derives joy from children and is passionate about connecting with mothers to encourage and reiterate God’s design for the toughest job on Earth. 

 After struggling with infertility, Angela and her husband entered the world of foster care and began the journey to create their family on God’s terms

When she is not entertaining children, or buying LulaRoe, Angela loves to read, write and explore the path being laid before her by the most perfect parent, our Heavenly Father.

Read more of Angela’s writing and journey at www.angelajamison.com

The Wisdom of Solomon

The story of Solomon asking the Lord for wisdom prompted me to think Solomon’s motivations. Here he was the King of Israel, after a less than simple rise to power. He was not the first-born son of David and therefore, expectations from other family members didn’t match what David wanted.

Scholars disagree about Solomon’s age when he became king, but Solomon’s own words in I Kings 3:7 indicate something to me.  When the LORD appeared to Solomon and told him to ask for whatever he wanted, Solomon called himself a “little child.” Whether he was actually a young man – teenager/young adult – or an older adult, a truth stood out to me about his words.

  1. Humility – He recognized his position and God’s and acknowledged that God’s faithfulness to David and his family. He later states that “he doesn’t know how to go out or come in.” vs. 7
  2. Responsibility – In verse 8 he states that he is a leader of a great multitude and knew the gravity of the situation. The greater the privilege, the greater the responsibility.
  3. Example – He recognized his Father’s godly example because he mentions that David “walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness and in uprightness of heart toward you.” Despite David’s failings, Solomon knew that David valued his relationship with the LORD and walked obediently.

Solomon then asked for wisdom. Acknowledging the need for discretion and discernment in dealing with the people he was responsible for, he wanted the capability to tap into the endless supply of wisdom that only God could provide.

Struck by the truth that God’s wisdom was what Solomon most desired, I had to run a quick assessment in my own heart. So many times, I am anxious to run ahead and “handle” daily life. Not necessarily the big decisions – those seem easier to acknowledge I need God’s wisdom for. It’s the minutiae of daily decisions that I struggle with sometimes. Solomon’s example though was one of humility. He acknowledged that he didn’t naturally possess the wisdom to be a great leader and he wanted to lead well. He knew the responsibility was ginormous, and that David’s example of obedience to the LORD resulted in blessing.

Of course, this is not the only example of asking for wisdom in the Bible. There are plenty of examples from the Old and New testaments, but I love how James reminds us in chapter 1, that if we lack wisdom, we need to ask for it and know that our faithful father is willing to give it liberally, abundantly and doesn’t hold back. We don’t need to be kings or queens, we have access to him as His children to humbly approach and ask for the wisdom we need no matter the situation great or small.

Now isn’t that the encouragement we all need each day?

Saying Yes When You’d Rather Say No

by Angela Jamison

While I was basking in the Friday afternoon quiet before the kids arrived home from school, my phone rang. I had plans to sleep in the next day as well as enjoy the freedom that comes with having nothing on the calendar, but the caller quickly thwarted those plans when they asked for a favor. Not a favor of insignificance, but a favor of the magnitude that would claim my entire day, cost me money and be rather exhausting.

I wanted to say no.

I wanted to say no and sleep in. I wanted to say no and go to the pool or stay in my pajamas until noon. I wanted to say no, but the word “absolutely” came out instead.

After I made the commitment, the phrase “the hands and feet of Jesus” ran through my head. It was incessant, evading the possibility of grasping for understanding. I mumbled it out loud, wrote it down and became frustrated with my inability to see the significance of the phrase in my current day.

Then someone said to me, “You are being the hands and feet of Jesus and even if the situation does not go as planned, you have to know that those around you are seeing Jesus in you.”

I’m the hands and feet of Jesus. You are the hands and feet of Jesus. We are the hands and feet of Jesus. I’ve used the phrase before and even said it to my own children, but it never felt so powerful.

What exactly does it mean to be the hands and feet of Jesus, though? We easily think of cliche Christian volunteerism like feeding the homeless or going on mission trips and although those things are important and necessary, they’re directly linked to church and not our mundane every day lives.

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

1Peter 4:10 NIV

In our daily grind it is much more difficult to actively be the hands and feet of Jesus. We get tied up in work, school, kids, ball games, traffic and stress and we simply ignore the call to serve others. We relate the phrase to the big to-dos of volunteering like described above and we miss the ever-present, simple opportunities to share Jesus’ love. We often say no because life is overwhelming and the reality is, we should say yes.

Being the hands and feet of Jesus is saying yes when you’d rather say no.

It’s hard! Believe me, I recognize the difficulty as I struggle to balance four children, a full time job and writing on the side. We can all claim understanding as each of our lives has its own plethora of struggles, but if we all continue saying no, what happens to the body of Christ?

Nothing.

Nothing happens to the body of Christ. It does not grow and He is not glorified.

Being the hands and feet of Jesus does not have to be an over-the-top act. It simply needs to be a genuine desire to show the love of our Savior. My moment of obedience came from a day trip that I’d rather not have taken. It came from saying yes when I wanted to say no.

Your moment of obedience may come from helping someone who has wronged you when you’d rather see them struggle or taking an extra minute to hold the door for a stranger when you’re already running late.

God does not call us to always be extravagant, He calls us to be obedient.

Today, I pray that you are presented the opportunity to be obedient, to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I pray you choose to say yes even if you really want to say no.


 

headshotAngela Jamison is a mother of four and works with young children as the Director of a Christian Preschool. She derives joy from children and is passionate about connecting with mothers to encourage and reiterate God’s design for the toughest job on Earth. 

 After struggling with infertility, Angela and her husband entered the world of foster care and began the journey to create their family on God’s terms

When she is not entertaining children, or buying LulaRoe, Angela loves to read, write and explore the path being laid before her by the most perfect parent, our Heavenly Father.

Read more of Angela’s writing and journey at www.angelajamison.com